Last reviewed 17 August 2021

NHS England (NHSE) guidance has been issued stating clinically necessary blood tests should go ahead as scheduled but others should be suspended due to a global supply chain crisis.

Medical technology company Becton Dickinson (BD) recently warned of serious supply chain issues caused by soaring demand and “UK border challenges”. The British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) said BD was a key supplier of the tubes and apologised to NHS trusts for the disruption.

NHSE said the measures in the guidance should be implemented urgently by all medical directors, nursing directors, GPs, and pathology laboratories and clinical pathology providers, working with primary care, community and acute care providers, including NHS and Public Health England.

The guidance says senior clinical oversight is needed around the ordering of tests with a view to reducing the use of the products impacted by the supply disruption.

Tests for cancer diagnoses, unwell babies and prenatal screening are to be prioritised but patients with suspected allergies and vitamin D deficiencies are now likely to face delays to routine testing. Fertility blood tests may also be affected.

GPs can “reduce non-essential (non-clinically urgent) testing” including stopping vitamin D testing except in exceptional circumstances and deferring routine infertility testing unless the patient is over the age of 35.

The guidance warns against stockpiling test tubes. GP practices have been asked to order supplies from NHS Supply Chain rather than try to buy directly from the manufacturers.

NHS Supply Chain said it expected to see “some improvement” in availability from next month.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Patient safety and continuity of care is our priority and we are working to ensure there is minimal possible impact on patient care. The health and care system is working closely with BD to put mitigations in place to resolve any problems if they arise.”

The guidance and recommended actions for GPs is available here.